Mary Magdalene Booker Smith-Morrison, the youngest daughter of Ernest Booker and Zelder Wilkerson Booker, was born in Wake County, NC. For most of her life, Mary used 1930 as her date of birth; however, when she saw her birth certificate as an adult, she learned that her date of birth was January 26,1929. She was proud to have reached the age of 91. Mary was the last of her generation, having been predeceased by her seven sisters (Hazel, Alechia,Marie, Mozelle, Hattie, Myrtle, Blanche) and three brothers (Mansie, Rufus, Jesse). Mary transitioned from this life succumbing to complications from sarcoidosis on May 18, 2020 at Heartsfields at Cary. She had an amazing life during which she touched many lives through her work, her church, and her advocacy for others.
When she was born, her parents were sharecroppers in Wake County, NC; however, they moved to their own farm in Holly Springs, NC when she was about 5 years old. She professed religion at an early age and joined the Holly Springs Christian Church, where her father was a deacon and her mother often hosted the pastor and church visitors.
After she graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School, Mary joined her two older sisters, Hattie and Myrtle, at Shaw University. When their father became ill, Mary had to leave school. She enrolled in and graduated from Payne’s Business School and started her career as a business professional. On May 17, 1953, she married Raymond Smith, Jr. Together, they built Smith Masonry Company, which still continues today. Their union was blessed with three children. When Raymond died in 1984, they had been married for 31 years.
Mary had an extraordinary professional life. She was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement by breaking the color lines to become the first Black person to be hired in many positions. In the 1960’s, she became the first non-custodial Black employee at the City of Raleigh. The story of this hire was reported by the Associated Press. She was also the first Black teller hired at Wachovia Bank in Raleigh, and the first Black person to work for the Raleigh branch of Mutual of New York Insurance. She also worked at the Saint Agnes Hospital, the Baptist Headquarters, The Carolinian, and the State of North Carolina.In addition to working in the Office of the North Carolina Secretary of the Department of Transportation. Mary was the first Black person to serve as an EEO officer for the North Carolina Department of Administration. There, Mary was able to diversify the workforce by hiring hundreds of African Americans for the State of North Carolina. During this time, Mary returned to Shaw University with a goal of graduating from college before her oldest child. They both graduated in 1977. After leaving the State of North Carolina, Mary continued her work with Smith Masonry Company, becoming the CEO in 1984.
In the early 1970’s, Mary joined her long-time pastor, J. W. Albright, at Poplar Springs United Church of Christ, now Poplar Spring Christian Church. On August 19, 1989, she married Rev. J. W. Morrison, then pastor of the church, and welcomed his adult children into the family. For over 40 years, she was a faithful member of the church where she is celebrated as the former First Lady. She attended church regularly, even after her health declined.
Mary was also active in politics and civic life. She was chairperson of the Raleigh Planning Commission and served as a member of the board for several years. In 1992, Mary was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority as a member of the Raleigh Alumnae Chapter. She remained active in the sorority until her death.
As one friend said, this plane of existence is much diminished without her, but was also made richer by her sojourn here. Mary is survived by her children, Patsy Smith Morgan, Christopher D. Smith and wife, Linda (Raleigh, NC), Sheila Smith McKoy (Oakland, CA), and James R. Morrison and wife, Tonya (Stafford, VA); six grandchildren, Raymond Smith McKoy (Palo Alto, CA), Christopher Brock Smith (Atlanta, GA), Brandon Booker Smith, Marissa Smith Morgan (both of Raleigh, NC), Alexander James Morrison, and Leah Morrison (both of Stafford, VA); two beloved goddaughters, Jaqueline Burt Scott (Richmond, VA) and Beatrice James Brown (Raleigh, NC); and numerous nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.
A Celebration of Life is being planned for a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you donate to Poplar Springs Christian Church at https://poplar-springs.org/giving/or to the Shaw University’s Emergency Student Assistance Fund at https://www.shawu.edu/EAS-Fund/.
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